More than ever, all-Black sports radio’s time has come



A Spanish all-sports station may soon debut in New York City. Yet there’s still not an all-Black sports radio station anywhere in this country, neither on terrestrial regular radio nor on the nation’s only satellite radio service, SiriusXM.

Before the FCC approved the Sirius-XM merger in 2008, we were told that new channels for underserved communities would be established. However, only one Black-oriented channel from Howard University has been added post-merger. There’s a “Mad Dog” sports channel and a fantasy sports channel, but not one channel with Blacks talking sports all the time.

(For full disclosure purposes: I am a longtime XM radio subscriber and have complained often in writing, especially post-merger — my latest writing complaint was sent just last month, but no response from them yet. Now SiriusXM boasts that both revenue and subscribers are up, and they raised their prices at the beginning of the year as well.)

“Personally I believe that an all-Black sports radio channel could sustain itself and be successful,” says Henry Lake of KFAN.

Blacks “would bring a fresh perspective” to sports radio, adds BlackSportsOnline’s Robert Littal, “and not the same shock jock mainstream American type of opinion on things.”

I know what good sports radio looks and sounds like. It shouldn’t be all White males out-shouting each other in their weak attempt to discuss sports. Sadly, whenever a Black voice is heard, they simply echo their vanilla counterparts, offering little in way of contrast.

What’s more, there are plenty of talented local folk, but they’re overlooked, undervalued, underestimated, marginalized — and Black.

Take Lake, for example, who’s relegated to Sunday late mornings. Listeners often tell him they would love to hear him every day of the week, he told me, “but I am not in the position to make those decisions on those [programming] calls.”

Lea B. Olsen, as another example, does fluff halftime pieces for the Timberwolves when she could do so much more.

Elsewhere, there are strong Black personalities: Mark Gray in Washington, D.C. and the Carey Sisters in Las Vegas who talk sports with the best of them. They could be the building blocks for an all-Black sports channel.

There are “fresh young voices” out there who are Black, says Littal, who’s based in Ohio. Having his own website allows him to “speak freely and unrestricted,” he adds. “Is it that there aren’t enough [Black] candidates [or] some underlying reasons we don’t know about that’s causing it not to happen?” he asks regarding the nonexistence of all Black sports talk.

“People like what they are hearing in our great state of Minnesota,” notes Lake, a native Minnesotan. “They are so used to status quo that they don’t even think about trying to be as creative as they can be.”

The “they” Lake refers to are most likely White programmers and other radio execs — the longtime diversity blockers. But these are my words, not his.

Sabo Media President Walter Sabo, in his four-part series on FM sports talk radio in TALKERS Magazine, recently wrote, “We tend to find ways to mock the new. A new format, new approach immediately stages other stations as old and out of touch.” If I didn’t know better, it would seem that Sabo is talking directly about Twin Cities radio.

Is this the reason why an all-Black sports station, FM or AM, has yet to debut locally or anywhere else in this country? Are they afraid of being out-staged or shown a better way of talking sports on air?

Wouldn’t all-Black sports talk be the type of innovation that Sabo considers worth investing in? If not now, when? Do Latinos talk sports better than Blacks?

The Twin Cities has an FM sports station, but it sounds no different than when it was on the AM band. The former Sporting News Radio is renamed Yahoo! Sports and can be heard locally on HD, but it doesn’t sound any better than on non-HD.

“They want to keep us down at a certain level because they are able to protect their position, status [or] job,” surmises Littal of mainstream media’s continual reluctance to diversify its voices. “We don’t want to be [ESPN’s] Skip Bayless…or want their job. “I just want the opportunity to speak out, because we are the ones that are also making the story.”


Did you know…?

There is a national Black sports radio network. Name it. (Answer in next week’s “View.”)

Answer to last week’s question: John Chaney and C. Vivian Stringer both led the Cheyney State men’s and women’s basketball programs in the late 1970s, and both shared gym space for practices. Now Cheyney University, it might be the only HBCU to have two of its coaches as inductees in the Basketball Hall of Fame.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to